Motorists, farmers advised to be vigilant on the road
Colquitt County Farm Bureau member Jody Redding vividly remembers driving his tractor across a bridge, a seed drill in tow, when a tractor-trailer rig rapidly approached from the other direction. Only divine intervention, it seemed, prevented a catastrophic accident.
“I didn’t think it was going to be able to stop in time,” said Redding, a field representative for Sen. Johnny Isakson. “I couldn’t have put my boot between my front tire and his front tire.”
Redding acknowledged that he was fortunate, but too many times slow-moving farm vehicles end up in crashes with faster vehicles. Between 2014 and 2018, there were nearly 2,200 crashes in Georgia involving farm or construction vehicles, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). In those accidents, 28 people died and 875 were injured. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the number of crashes involving farm and construction vehicles in Georgia has increased by 27 percent over the last five years.
The GOHS, Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) held a joint press conference on Oct. 15 during Sunbelt Ag Expo to urge Georgia motorists and farmers to exercise vigilance on the road, particularly during harvest, when more farm vehicles must use roads to move between fields.
GFB President Gerald Long noted that the margins for error on the roads have diminished.
“In many cases, the roads are the same size as they’ve always been,” Long said. “Our farm equipment has gotten much bigger.”
The GOHS and Department of Agriculture are pushing for increased road awareness with their “Increase Our Yield Behind the Wheel” campaign, asking drivers to reduce speed when approaching farm vehicles on the road and only pass in designated passing zones.
“Too many people like to speed and drive distracted in rural areas because there are generally fewer vehicles traveling on these roads,” Allen Poole, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said. “But rural roads are where our farmers work, and drivers need to obey the speed limit and watch the road so they can slow down and safely pass these vehicles.”
While drivers are being encouraged to drive with care in rural areas, farmers should make sure their vehicles are properly marked and all safety equipment is working properly before getting on the road.
Georgia law requires all farm vehicles and wagons on the road to have orange triangle-shaped signs. These signs let other drivers on the road know that the vehicle or wagon is traveling at a speed that is significantly slower than normal flow of traffic.
“With the farming community and the driving public working together, we can prevent these crashes and ensure our farm workers can continue to do their jobs of getting food to our tables safely,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said.